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Calls for Book of Kells to be returned 'home'

THE town of Kells wants its book back, despite the fact that the current owner has had it for over 350 years.

A new forum of residents from the medieval town of Kells, Co Meath, has embarked on a mission to get Trinity College to release one of the four volumes of the ancient manuscript so it can go on display in Kells.

But Trinity College, where it is now housed, has already rejected the town's request.

The priceless book, which was written by monks around 800 AD, disappeared when Oliver Cromwell's army arrived in Kells in 1654, and was given to Trinity six years later.

Every year, around half a million people visit the library in Trinity to view the illuminated copy of the four Gospels, making it one of the top five tourist attractions in Ireland.

In a statement yesterday, the forum said the book is an early Christian artefact and should be celebrated "in an early Christian setting as opposed to its current 'profane' setting".

Kells Tourism Forum chairman Aidan Wall said: "Trinity College does not own the Book of Kells; it is a national treasure and is owned by the people of Ireland. Our town is its natural and spiritual home."

The forum believes that having one volume of the book in their town would boost tourism.

But Trinity College said the display and storage of the manuscript "are subject to very careful environmental controls and security".

Since the year 2000, "it has been the policy of the board of Trinity College on the grounds of security, environmental and preservation concerns to decline such requests.

"The preservation of this manuscript must take priority over all other considerations."

Irish Independent